Partners in Pilgrimage and Process

Quiet in the Land founder France Morin explains how she came to choose Luang Prabang as the site of her project. (1 min., 29 sec.)

NEW YORK, April 6, 2010 - Collaborators France Morin, Carol Becker, and Ann Hamilton reflected on the spirituality of the artistic process as they discussed their experiences while working on The Quiet in the Land, a four-year public art project sponsored by the nonprofit art and education organization of that name in Luang Prabang, Laos.

In a conversation with Asia Society President Vishakha Desai, all three women expressed their sense of pilgrimage while participating in the project, which brought foreign artists together with Laotian locals to foster a sense of community and creative expression.

Luang Prabang captured the attention of The Quiet in the Land's founder, independent curator Morin, as a unique space undergoing rapid transformation; one that was trying to balance globalization with the preservation of its culture and community. She and the artists she enlisted immersed themselves among Laotians for years to better understand their material culture as well as to experiment with the dynamic of collaboration, which Morin called a pilgrimage in itself. She insisted, "I'm not a curator on this project [...] we embarked on this journey together; we lived this together."

Hamilton, a visual artist and Professor of Art at Ohio State University, approached the project with only the intent to listen. She explained, "The thing about making work is for the process. When it's most alive ... for artists, for curators, and writers, is when you don't know what it is yet."  Hamilton became fascinated by the art of weaving in Laos, where individual threads come together to reveal a larger pattern. The image of a boat shuttle running across a loom inspired her final project—the design and construction of a walking meditation boat on the Mekong River, which eventually became part of the local monks' lives.

Projects by other artists, such as Marina Abramović and Shirin Neshat, included drawings, films, sculptures, and embroideries. Becker, Dean of the School of the Arts at Columbia University, remarked, "Artists are good pilgrims: agile in their ability to absorb complexity, visual and otherwise, and often able to transform what could be a barrier into a point of entry."

The collaborators all agreed that The Quiet in the Land represented both a spiritual and cyclical journey, one in which both the artists and the people they worked with were able to examine and bridge their differences in order to gain a better understanding of themselves. Of the project's legacy in Luang Prabang, Morin said, "Touching the creative spirit and creative nature in people is a total awakening of their dignity."

Reported by Melanie Weniger

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